Institute for Family Violence Studies partners on March to End the Silence Domestic Violence
Last year in Leon County, more than 1,700 domestic violence offenses were reported, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. These were only the incidents reported to local authorities, but many more go unreported every year.
For the fourth year running, the Institute for Family Violence Studies (IFVS) partnered with the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (DVCC) to put on the March to End the Silence on Domestic Violence to bring awareness in the local community. March participants included students from Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College who all marched and met in solidarity on the front steps of the Florida Capitol.
The March was followed by an event featuring dinner and speakers. Keynote speaker Melissa Dohme-Hlll shared her person story of survival and eventual triumph after enduring more than 30 stab wounds at the hand of her an ex-boyfriend. Since her ordeal, she now serves as a public speaker and violence prevention advocate with Hands Across the Bay’s Domestic Violence Division in Tampa, Florida.
“My message to any woman that’s in an abusive relationship is that you’re not alone and there is a better life after abuse,” Dohme-Hill told ABC News. “You deserve to be loved and respected and never, never should a man lay a hand on you, and it’s not acceptable by any means.”
The event was led by DVCC Director Kelly O’Rourke, who is also a research association with IFVS. She notes that studies show the key to mitigating domestic violence are well-coordinated community responses and awareness. DVCC has been making special efforts to educate and inform young adults and college students, stressing the importance of not letting strong emotions escalating into violent.
“We’re working on prevention,” O’Rourke told the Tallahassee Democrat. “We’re working with them to not turn that into anger and shoving and pushing and power and control. We have to start early with the teenagers.”
Efforts have included what O’Rourke describes as Teen Peer Advisor workshops, like the dating abuse and communication workshop held for FAMU’s Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers. O’Rourke explained that the workshops help participants to identify the warning signs or red flags of a dangerous relationships. Although warning signs can vary widely, friends and coworkers may notice tell-tale signs of abuse in peers or friends.
Emily Mitchem, assistant director at Refuge House in Tallahassee mentioned certain signs of domestic violence can include someone becoming more withdrawn or isolated as well as changes of personality or demeanor. Other signs from the victims’ partners can also include things like controlling behavior. Mitchem encourages friends or relatives to report or refer their friend to Refuge House’s emergency hotline at 850-681-2111. Refuge House, a member of the DVCC, offers support locally to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
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